The Telegraph’s new series Bed of Lies has the tone of a true-crime podcast. Feature writer Cara McGoogan says the show investigates “one of the biggest scandals in recent British history”, but holds off on telling us what that might be. Instead, she introduces four women: Rosa, Lisa, Alison and Lindsey (not their real names), who were all part of lively activist communities between 1990 and 2010. They were variously involved in struggles for animal rights, environmental activism or anti-racist and anti-police brutality groups, and all of them met, fell in love with and embarked on serious long-term relationships with men they met through these communities.
Bed of Lies teases us with the idea that something was “wrong” with these relationships without specifying what – there are suspicions, secrets, passports discovered bearing different names, hinting at a bizarre crime story like that in the LA Times podcast Dirty John. But the blurb tells us the series exposes “a web of state-spun lies”, so although this first episode stops short of explaining the link between these couples, it’s not hard to guess. The women in Bed of Lies were all seduced, misled and manipulated by undercover police officers; they were victims of what has become known as the “spy cops” scandal. As women such as those in this podcast went public about their experiences, it was discovered that at least 139 officers infiltrated left-wing groups in this way, causing an outcry. A public inquiry, announced six years ago, finally began taking evidence on 2 November; the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill – which would seek to limit undercover police powers to prevent cases such as these – recently passed its third reading in parliament.
[see also: Remembering the New Cross house fire]
It’s a shame Bed of Lies presents the story as a mystery; I’d rather it dispensed with the question marks to tackle this horrifying abuse of human rights head-on. Rosa, Lisa, Alison and Lindsey have been through deeply traumatic experiences and are the victims of what can only be viewed as state-condoned sexual abuse. All have spoken out before, so Bed of Lies will sound familiar to those who have deeply researched this scandal. But that doesn’t make it any less stomach-churning.
Bed of Lies
Apple Podcasts, Spotify
This article appears in the 18 Nov 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Vaccine nation